Maryland officials are considering tougher penalties for driving under the influence.
A Montgomery County police captain recently testified at a state committee hearing, offering support for a bill that would make certain DUI arrests a felony for repeat offenders. The captain expressed frustration for the number of repeat DUI offenders he sees on the state’s roads and highways. In one instance, a repeat drunk driver hit his cruiser.
Notably, although 46 other states have felony laws against repeat drunk driving convictions, the jurisdictions of Maryland and Washington, D.C. do not. The proposed legislation would change that.
If the bill is approved and becomes law, DUI offenders with three prior DUI convictions, as well as any DUI offender who caused serious or fatal injuries in a previous drunk driving crash, would face felony charges. The discussion comes one year after Maryland lawmakers passed Noah’s law, which requires an ignition interlock for any drunk driving conviction.
If tougher DUI laws are in the state’s future, it is important to remember that the officials who enforce those laws must also be held accountable to correct procedures. That protocol must start with the traffic stop, for which a police officer generally must have probable cause.
During the stop, the officer should observe telltale signs of intoxication before administering a field sobriety or Breathalyzer test. Those tests must also be administered properly. If there were errors in any of these steps, a DUI defendant may be able to raise a strong defense to the validity of the charges.